Existentialism and Judaism


Is existentialism, a western/continental philosophical movement founded primarily by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Søren Kierkegaard, compatible with Judaism? I ask as Joseph soloveitchik studied Kierkegaard



  1. In its pure understanding existentialism is a concept that is not just a part of Jewish philosophy but it is requirement. Jewish existentialism means to have some kind of a dynamic application to Jewish philosophy. Jewish philosophy teaches that thought for the sake of thought alone is lacking because Judaism teaches that everything needs to lead us closer to Hashem which, in this corporeal world, can only be done with the keeping of the Mitzvos and learning Hashem’s Holy Torah.

    The fact that Rabbi Soloveichik was conversant with the various philosophical schools of thought that were founded by those who had no connection to Hashem and His Torah, should come as no surprise as Rabbi Soloveichik’s philosophical approach to Hashem and Judaism required his thorough understanding of other theologies to explain why they were not, ultimately, compatible with Jewish theology.

    Please allow me to suggest that “Joseph Soleveichik” is, perhaps, a somewhat disrespectful way to refer to one of the greatest Jewish thinkers of the previous generations. I, personally, feel that it would be more appropriate to refer to him as “Rabbi Joseph Soleveichik”.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team